The Rapha Trade Team Jersey: Weighing In After The Miles
Given the opportunity to review the new Rapha Trade Team Jersey I jumped at the chance. Knowing the meticulous nature of product design and effort Rapha applies to their stock, the trade team jersey had piqued my interest.
The Rapha Trade Team Jerseys
Let me be blunt, I’m a big guy. On a good day I clock in at 208 lb. six foot even, and 45-46 inches across the chest. Somebody big and mean once told me, “You are built for running in a straight line and hitting things.” You get the picture; I am a stately-sized-linebacker-like-gentlemen who enjoys the rouleur life.
While Rapha has shifted into the racing spectrum with the pro team kits the trade team jersey seems to be a descendent of their “club fit” line, specifically the popular Rapha Country Jersey. The Trade Team jersey differentiates itself by deriving it’s naming convention in celebration of the podium holders (Poulidor, Anquetil and Planckaert) and their respective trade teams of the 1962 Tour de France. The Trade Team Jersey itself is a luxe Merino blend and the nod to the past gives it a classic aesthetic at first glance.
The Rapha Trade Team Jersey (front)
The Rapha Country Jersey relied upon a traditional five-panel design. Two up front, one panel for each side, and then a back panel. Awesome, right? Well, yes and no. Five panel construction fit ends up being akin to a majority of full zip race style jerseys. It’s par for course in modern jersey design but the defects are obvious to those of us that wear them on a regular basis. Specifically you run into the issue of, “The fewer panels the more the fabric must stretch, the more the fabric stretches the more opportunity for bunching, pulling and other irregularities in fit.” It makes Daddy look sloppy. This is where Rapha differentiates the Trade Team Jersey from the rest of the crowd. The Trade Team Jersey departs, significantly from this model by incorporating nine panels into the design. Yep, nine.
Exterior of side panels
Due to the addition of those panels (the additions are made to the side panels) the jersey does not pull across the front to close, but instead, naturally wraps around the chest to have a much more ergonomic fit. Oh and by the way as previously mentioned I, for one, do not have the traditional skinny cyclist body. On several rides there was no pull across the front. Instead I received a snug, racier fit than anticipated without the typical fit issues that accompany a jersey of this caliber. Those fit issues range from sleeves that ride up, bunching around the back of the neck, and pulling on the side panels through the armpit area. Over the course of several hundred miles on both long and short rides the trade team design carried me in comfort.
Interior of Side panels
Rapha has also incorporated a longer sleeve length, it is 1/2 to a full inch longer than the past Country Jersey, which is a nice touch for function and style. Especially when you consider the contrast piping and flag embroidery that pimps out each jersey.
Rapha Trade team Sleeve Length
Let’s talk about that piping. Upon closer inspection black sleeve piping provides a nice constriction around the arm without resorting to elastic. If you’ve ever had a jersey too tight around your arm you’ll recognize the immediate value and comfort this brings to the table. The sleeves allow that right amount of fit and volume. This kind of detail is where Rapha’s attention to product design becomes evident.
Sleeve with flag detail and Piping
Ergonomics and access is always an interesting problem to solve on a jerseys back panel. Rapha has traditionally applied zippered pockets and this is no exception. However the valuables pocket has become a vertically accessible full size pocket sewn into the interior of the jersey. Rapha jerseys have been arriving for some time now with the pre cut wire port for headphones/ear buds. On their trade team jerseys the port is cut out of the valuables pocket, which makes sense, but does create some logistical challenges. Nothing that can’t be navigated, but it does make you think twice before unzipping that pocket.
Back Pocket Unzipped
Interior of Valuables Pocket
All in, the simple and effective design changes allow for the classic color blocking to shine as Rapha gives a nod to the rockstars of the 1962 Tour. For a style and fit conscious rider like myself the Rapha Trade Team jersey falls into the game changer category. I’ll be the first to say, this isn’t rocket science, Rapha has managed to capture the right amount of function to accompany their meticulous fit and finish. Form and function is a winning combo and I’m interested to see if this design philosophy starts to make inroads to other areas of their product line up.
Verdict: Totally worth it, Rapha sticks to the “Simple is Beautiful” design ethos. And then they tweak it, to wildly effective results.